October 7, 2017
I had a breast biopsy this week.
I’m going to be frank about this nightmare-before-Halloween experience. Feel free to check out now if you’d just rather not. I get it.
I tried hard to be funny while writing it, guys. But it didn’t really work, because TRAUMA.
The biopsy took place on a state-of-the-art, brand-new piece of equipment (I know this because they kept telling me). It was installed only days before my procedure, meaning no one really knew how to use said equipment.
What they told me would take ten minutes took sixty.
For sixty minutes, I lay face down on a table that was raised high in the air, my chest pressed into a literal hole in the table. My legs, bum, head, and arms splayed unattractively akimbo because the table was subtly bowl-shaped, making my pose like that of a spider squashed in the part of the bathtub where the sides meet the bottom.
Does anyone know how I can tweet out my thoughts on this design and tag the engineering team who thought it was a good idea?
Because no one knew how to work the new software and machinery, a random stranger who worked for the medical equipment company spent an hour in the space below the table coaching the doctor and techs in the uses of the stereotactic biopsy table and needle FOR, I repeat, ONE HOUR while my delicate parts were “compressed” (i.e. smashed), a needle stabbed me, and the techs complained that I was moving too much. In my defense, you really can’t move when you are being “compressed” in this manner.
“Are you uncomfortable?” they would ask me, with an air of shocked disbelief, as if I were behaving like a petulant preschooler.
“Yes, I’m uncomfortable!” I retorted. This procedure and the position into which I was locked FOR AN HOUR were the very definition of uncomfortable.
The room was quiet with tension—my hatred of the table and the needle and the stupid questions, and their unspoken sentiment that I was being unnecessarily grumpy.
When they raised the table, it brought me eye-level with the framed hospital “art” hanging on the wall. It looked like a computer was commissioned to copy Monet—fuzzy impressionistic poppies in a fuzzy field overlooking a fuzzy beige view. It was the art equivalent of muzak.
I could see myself in the reflection of the painting’s glass. I looked bizarre, my bum, swathed in a too-large front-closing hospital robe, sticking in the air because of that “ergonomic” table; my Nikes dangling slightly above me (remember, bowl-shaped table?); my tenderest parts clenched in the flat fist of the machine’s paddles below the table.
I know the breast care center exists for the benefit of women, but this experience felt like a bunch of people without breasts got together and brainstormed ideas for “how to dehumanize female people while also hurting their most sensitive parts.”
There are women out there who have undergone double mastectomies and reconstructive surgery. And chemotherapy and radiation. To these women, I say, “I am weak. I bow down to you. The biopsy alone shook me.”
They took a couple of traditional mammograms after I disembarked the torture table. Then I sat in a big chair and swooned a bit as I watched a tech taping my wound together with steri-strips. It was a big hole. Big enough to insert a titanium hat-shaped marker into my breast that will remain there. (“I know, let’s make the metal marker in a HAT shape, because then it will have a pokey part that sticks out and isn’t smooth! Genius!”)
Jeff drove me directly to Kneader’s, where I ate carbs, including a perfect mint brownie.
The results should materialize in a few days. Meanwhile, I’m eating chocolate. And I have temporarily stopped reading my book (World Without End by Ken Follett) because my favorite female character is being horribly mistreated by evil monks and I want all women everywhere (including pretend ones) to be treated with dignity and respect, with no threats whatsoever against their lives or their boobs.